Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi pictured several years ago. Photo: Brian Brooks

Iranian officials have picked a fight with the Berlin International Film Festival after the event honored dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi with a prize. Panahi received an award for Best Screenplay for his film Closed Curtain (PardƩ), angering officials who complained that the film was not authorized to screen at the festival, which presented its prizes Saturday evening in the German capital.

Panahi, who made Closed Curtain with fellow Iranian and frequent collaborator Kambuzia Partovi remains under house arrest in Iran and was not allowed to attend the premiere. Noted Partovi following the film's debut, “Not being able to work at the height of your career is depressing and I think the film shows this.”

“We have protested to the Berlin Film Festival organizers,” said Iranian cinema chief and deputy culture minister Javad Shamaqdari, according to the ISNA news agency via The Guardian. “We believe that the Berlin fest organizers should correct their behavior. Everyone knows that making a film and sending it outside the country needs permission.” He added, “Making these films is illegal, but so far the Islamic republic has shown patience towards such illegal acts.”

Jafar Panahi's Closed Curtain

Set along the Caspian Sea, a group of people exile themselves inside a villa in what many viewers in Berlin took to represent the repression suffered in Iran by Panahi and other artists and dissidents. Both directors appear in the film.

This is not the first time Jafar Panahi has defied the 20-year filmmaking ban set by the Iranian regime. His documentary self-portrait This Is Not A Film (NYFF '11) debuted at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, showing the director's house arrest at his home in Tehran.

Though Panahi could not attend the premiere of Closed Curtain in Berlin, his image nevertheless made an appearance in the simple form of a cut out. Following the early morning screening, crowds shuffled passed a cardboard version of Panahi, which had the words “I should be here” written in English and German.